Anthony J. Piccione
The feeling of running into a long lost relative – one whom you’ve searching for, or perhaps even presumed to be dead – is a rare and emotional experience that few of us can truly understand. What could easily make the feeling of that experience even more unique is if you realize that that relative has been in front of you, the whole time. That’s exactly the feeling which Rosemary and Time, a new drama set in 1970s Yorkshire, attempts to capture during its run at the Paradise Factory Theatre.
Written by prolific playwright Jennifer Fell Hayes – who herself hails from Yorkshire and now resides in New York – the play is inspired by a true story about two women, and at the core of it is the relationship of two women who had been separated as children during World War II-era Britain, and ultimately were reunited as adults in the 70s, when they ultimately discovered that they had been long lost siblings, despite initially not knowing it. It’s a compelling concept for drama, to be sure, and there are moments in the play that I enjoyed. I only wish this play had been more successful at staying focused on that crucial aspect of the plot.
There’s a common critique that playwrights tend to receive, particularly as they’re developing a new work, which anyone who’s been in that position before has probably heard: It’s just too long. While I haven’t always thought that was a fair criticism, I do think it is here. It drags on at certain points, over the course of two hours, treating the audience often to what felt like unnecessary dialogue. It wasn’t until late into Act I that we really see what the most important relationship of the play – that of the two sisters – was going to be. It was unclear to me, after reading the program, what the developmental history of this play was, beyond how Ms. Hayes was inspired to write it. Yet I couldn’t help but think that maybe it could have benefitted from a developmental reading or workshop, prior to this production.
Despite its flaws, I still was able to appreciate much of this show, and there’s still plenty more to compliment about the production. Under the direction of Kathy Gail MacGowan, the staging is very clean and orchestrated wonderfully, especially during Act II, at a particular moment which – while I won’t give it away – I thought was a beautiful way to end the show. The set and costume designs of An-Lin Dauber succeed in capturing the backdrop and time period of the play, while the tone and atmosphere of various scenes are set perfectly by lighting designer Kia Roger.
In terms of the acting, Judith Barcroft – who has an extensive background of performing both on and off Broadway – stands out in her role of Vera, showing a captivating amount of emotional depth as Rosemary’s adoptive mother. Meanwhile, the two leading actors – Kate Crimes and Virginia Roncetti – both do justice to the roles of long lost sisters Rosemary and Hilda, respectively. In the role of their biological mother Ruby, Zoe Watkins delivers an intense performance which is especially memorable during her final monologue. Michael Markham does a fine job in the dual roles of Leslie and Arnie, as does Mary Katharine Harris in the role of Rosemary’s daughter, Julie.
Overall, this is a decent play, but it was also disappointing, in that I think it had the potential to be even better. There are plenty of well-written moments in here, including some particularly poignant moments – my personal favorite being one involving adoptive mother Vera – that occur toward the end. Still, I left the theater that night thinking that it could have easily been 20 or 30 minutes shorter, and that more could have been done to cut dialogue and keep the focus of the play on what was at the core of the story – the relationship between the two sisters, and how they became separated – which did have a great deal of potential and was worthy of being told. There’s a timeless truth in art that if a script is flawed, not even the best actors or the best director can do much about that, and this show only serves as further proof of that fact.
“Rosemary and Time” runs at Paradise Factory Theatre from February 2nd to 17th. For more information, please visit www.rosemaryandtimetheplay.com.
Photos by Gerry Goodstein